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Attorney: Forciea to plead guilty to federal charges
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Pat Forciea's alleged financial misdealings include obtaining $4.3 million in bank loans in Minnesota and Florida by forgery and other deceptions over the past year. (MPR file photo)
An attorney for sports entrepreneur and political consultant Pat Forciea says his client has acknowledged defrauding several banks and business partners of millions of dollars. Forciea served as a consultant on DFLer Paul Wellstone's 1990 campaign that launched the senator's political career. Forciea went on to develop numerous connections to professional and collegiate sports organizations in the following years. But now he seems likely to face time behind bars.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Attorney Joe Friedberg, who's representing Forciea, says his client met earlier this week with representatives of the U.S. Attorney's office to admit to fraud and embezzlement worth several million dollars. Friedberg wouldn't discuss specifics of the case, but he says that Forciea ran into trouble beginning about a year ago when he began buying minor league hockey teams.

"He leveraged one into the other, creating an impossible financial situation because he was paying too much for them to begin with, and ended up doing some dishonest things and abusing the trust of some friends in order to try to put this empire together," according to Friedberg.

Friedberg says no charges have yet been filed, but that Forciea came clean to federal officials as a result of an ongoing investigation into his financial dealings.

The U.S. Attorney's office declined to discuss the case. Two Twin Cities banks and a Forciea business associate who were potentially defrauded of millions of dollars were unavailable for comment or simply declined. Forciea is also reportedly under investigation for stealing $10,000 from a University of Minnesota sports promotion campaign in the late 1990s.

Forciea has also been a prominent DFL strategist since he helped Paul Wellstone win his first election to the U.S. Senate. Most recently, Forciea served as campaign manager for DFLer Roger Moe's unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 2002. Moe says he was shocked to learn of Forciea's current financial straits.

"It's unfortunate because Pat's a very bright guy. And whatever reasons and whatever factors led to this... it's tragic," Moe said.

Forciea left the Moe campaign just two and a half months before the election. At the time, Forciea cited creative differences. Moe says Forciea was simply too busy managing his other interests to devote his full attention to the campaign.

Attorney Friedberg says his client's troubles are driven by a bipolar disorder for which Forciea is currently in treatment. Friedberg says the disease spurred Forciea to take risks he shouldn't have.

"While he's in his hypermanic stage, he believes he can achieve things that he really can't achieve and believes that the end justifies the means, which it certainly doesn't from a legal standpoint," Friedberg said.

Advertising guru Bill Hillsman worked with Forciea during the first Wellstone campaign, and during Forciea's stint with the now-departed Minnesota North Stars hockey team. Hillsman notes that he hasn't worked closely with Forciea in several years, but he says he never saw any obvious signs of trouble. Hillsman does say, however, that it's not surprising that Forciea was dominated by mood swings.

"You kind of have the highest highs and the lowest lows. There's no better feeling than being in a victory like Paul Wellstone's. But there's probably no better feeling than the Minnesota Twins winning the World Series or the North Stars being in the Stanley Cup finals," he said.

And Hillsman says trying to patch together a network of minor league hockey teams is not a simple task. Sports economist Mark Rosentraub agrees. Rosentraub is the dean of Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs. He says too often investors learn that the hard way.

"And you've seen it even at major league levels when people who are very successful in other lines of work enter sports, try to pursue the same, let's say, pathway that took them to success in another enterprise, and don't replicate it. And they get frustrated that they can't replicate the success," Rosentraub says.

Friedberg says he expects charges to be filed and his client to plead guilty within the next month or so. He says Forciea is almost certainly looking at prison time, but he says it's not clear how much.

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